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Three million emergency food parcels provided in record year for demand

Rebecca Goodman
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Rebecca Goodman

Almost three million emergency food parcels were provided in the last year, the highest ever number recorded, according to the Trussell Trust.

This is a 37% rise on the previous year, with more than a million parcels handed to children.

It reflects soaring bills and consistent double-digit inflation for most of the last year amid the cost-of-living crisis.

It’s also 16% higher than in 2020 to 2021 when millions of households were given emergency parcels as they faced economic pressures over the first Covid lockdowns.

According to Trussell Trust, more than 760,000 people used a food bank in its network for the first time – a 38% increase in people who have needed support for the first time, compared to the same period last year.  

120% rise in food bank use in five years

When comparing the number of parcels handed out in 2022 to 2023, levels are 120% higher than they were five years ago back in 2017.

December 2022 was the busiest month on record for UK food banks with 332,835 distributed which equates to a food parcel every eight seconds. This is 50,000 more than the previous busiest month of April 2020. It is also a rise of 29% from December 2021 and a 57% rise from December 2019.

This trend has continued, with March seeing 332,424 parcels distributed, a 50% increase from March 2022.

The Trust points out that the growth is higher for children, and the number of parcels for them rose by 132% over the five years.

Of those seeking help from food banks, there has been a rise in demand from those in work. In response to this many food banks have changed their opening hours to make sure people who are working can still access this support around their working hours.

Geographically, food banks in Wales experienced the biggest rise of 41% in use, followed by England, 37%, Scotland, 30%, and Northern Ireland, 29%. Yet when looking back five years, the highest rise in demand for food banks of 141% has been seen in Northern Ireland.

One-off payments ‘unable to make a lasting difference’

The Trussell Trust said the upwards trend in demand for food banks pre-dates both the cost-of-living crisis and the Covid pandemic.

These instead have “exposed and exacerbated” the problem of “a weakened social security system that is unable to protect people from the most severe forms of hardship, thereby forcing more people to the doors of food banks.”

Its data also showed that there was a slight fall in demand for food banks when Government cost-of-living payments were made, with the next due to be made in the coming days.

But it said this was only a short-term solution and this shows that “one-off payments are unable to make a lasting difference when people’s regular income (from social security and from work) is just too low to enable people to afford the essentials.”

The Trust is now calling on the Government to change the way the benefits system works, to guarantee people can afford to buy essential items, and to increase funding to local authorities.

‘Food banks were set up to provide short-term support’

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “Food banks were set up to provide short-term support to people in an emergency, they are not a lasting solution to hunger and poverty, and more than three quarters of the UK population agree with us that they should not need to exist.

“For too long people have been going without because social security payments do not reflect life’s essential costs and people are being pushed deeper into hardship as a result.

“If we are to stop this continued growth and end the need for food banks then the UK Government must ensure that the standard allowance of Universal Credit is always enough to cover essential costs.”